Mir Ehsan, Srinagar
The moment news about India’s strike across the Line of Control reached Tangdhar town, worried parents rushed to schools to bring their children back home.
Villagers and townspeople near the LoC are worried about the possible return of cross-border shelling, which had claimed dozens of civilian lives in Uri, Tangdhar and Gurez sectors. The ceasefire between India and Pakistan in 2003 had brought relief for villagers but the worries started with the recent deterioration of India-Pakistan relations that peaked with the terrorist attack on an Army base in Uri.
“I came to know about the raids from television and, fearing a reprisal from across the border, I brought my children back from school,” said Mohammad Arshad of Tangdhar town, whose location places it within range of any possible shelling from Pakistan. “Before the ceasefire, shells regularly used to land in our town and villages and dozens of people died. If shelling happens again, it is always the poor who will pay the price.”
The market in Tangdhar shut earlier than usual. “I usually close in the evening but today I went home in the afternoon. There could be reply from Pakistan,” said Iqbal Khan, who runs a shop. “All my neighbours are talking about shelling coming back.”
Border residents had built underground bunkers in the days of shelling but most of those are unusable now, damaged in the 2005 earthquake, and villagers didn’t bother to reconstruct them in view of the ceasefire.
Of the 102 villages in Uri, more than half are within range of Pakistan’s artillery. In the past, misdirected shells had often landed in the homes of civilians. And in the late 1990s, hundreds of villagers had migrated to Baramulla township. “Though it is peaceful here now, we are scared,” admitted Ghulam Nabi Khwaja of Garkote village close to the LoC. “Earlier, we had the safety of underground bunkers, As we no longer have that, we will be sitting ducks if shelling happens.”
During the day, while Uri market was open, shopkeepers and customers kept watching the TV news. “So far nothing has happened in our town or neighbouring villages but villages who live on the zero line left the market early to be with their families,” said Mohammad Ashraf Khan, a shopkeeper.
At Dawar Gurez, shops shut in the afternoon and people of Kazalwan, Neil and Wanpora villages headed to an underground tunnel built for the Kishanganga power project. The Army has restricted movement of civilians in Gurez, especially on the LoC.
Punjab: Women and children move to relatives’ homes, men stay back
Raakhi Jagga, Ludhiana
Following the Punjab government’s order to evacuate villages in a 10-km radius of the border, women and children from hundreds of villages in Punjab’s Fazilka and Ferozepur districts left for relatives’ homes farther away from the border. The men, however, stayed back, as many had done during the Indo-Pak wars in 1965, 1971 and 1999.
Lachman Singh from Beriwala village in Fazilka, 150 villages of which fall in the 10-km radius of the border, said: “A few people from every village had stayed back even during the 1971 and 1965 war to take care of their belongings. We don’t want a war, because it will affect us the most, but we are ready for whatever comes.”
As for Ferozepur, 304 villages of the district fall in the 10-km radius of the border. BJP leader from the district, Sukhpal Singh Nannu, said,” I recall that during the Kargil war, most villagers in Hussainiwala area had stayed back. They had also arranged langar for the security personnel. Villagers are in upbeat mood. No doubt they need to be careful, but they are confident. There is not much tension.”
Sandeep Kumar of Bareke in Ferozepur district, who travels to the town daily to work, said, “I was anxious after watching the news. When I called up my parents back home, they said only a few people living near the fence have started moving out.”
In Tindiwala, which is nearest to the border among villages in Ferozepur district, people said they had packed jewellery, cash, a few clothes and furniture before moving out.
The deputy commissioners of Fazilka and Ferozepur said 26 relief camps have been set up in schools and colleges of each district. In Ferozepur, all schools and colleges have been closed.
Fazilka DC Isha Kalia said, “We have set up camps outside the 10 km radius and will provide all facilities to people who shift there. As of now, people are moving to their relatives’ places. There is no need to panic. “
DC, Ferozepur, D P S Kharbanda said, “It is not compulsory for villagers to move out, but those willing can move to the camps and we will take care of them.”
Gujarat: Coast Guard and BSF on high alert but border villagers will stay home
Express News Service, Ahmedabad/Rajkot
Security agencies in Gujarat, which shares a 508 km border with Pakistan, were put on high alert on Thursday. While the BSF intensified patrolling on the land border, the Coast Guard have been asked to maintain vigil in the sea, official sources said Thursday.
Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said, “Following the surgical strikes, high alert has been sounded across Gujarat, specially in the three districts — Banaskantha, Patan and Kutch — that share border with Pakistan. Coastal police stations have also been alerted to increase the vigil.”
“No evacuation (of villages along the Pakistan border) has been ordered as of now,” said defence spokesperson Wing Commander Abhishek Matiman.
Deputy CM Patel said the Home Ministry had instructed all border states to evacuate villages within 10 km of international border. However, we do not have any village within that range. All Gujarat villages are beyond 25 km range of the border,” Patel added. He said that the additional chief secretary (home) was in constant touch with various central security agencies to preempt any untoward incident.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani hailed India’s surgical attack across the LoC as a “consolation” to the martyred soldiers. The CM held a meeting with top government officials to review security arrangements in the state, especially in three districts bordering Pakistan.
Rupani said the government had instructed the administration in all the three districts to provide all necessary assistance to the BSF, Coast Guard, Navy and Army, as and when required. The meeting was attended by state Home Minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja, in charge DGP P P Pandey, and senior IAS officers.
In Saurashtra, fishermen have been asked not to venture at the sea until further instructions while security forces and intelligence network have been alerted in Kutch along the border with Pakistan. Manish Lodhari, general secretary of Gujarat chapter of National Fishworkers Forum, said they too have asked fishermen to remain cautious.
In Jammu, border villages in panic after alert
Arun Sharma, Jammu
Villagers living along the border in Jammu are in panic after the state government sounded an alert in over 300 villages near the LoC, asking them to stay ready for evacuation. Of the nearly 300 villages in the five border districts — Kathua, Samba, Jammu, Rajouri and Pooch — 120 fall along the border and the others along the LoC. DCs of all five districts have been asked to put in place a contingency plan for evacuation of people in the event of firing and shelling by Pakistani troops, official sources told The Indian Express, adding that so far, they had not evacuated anyone.
Nearly 30 per cent of people in Bengalad, Galad and Chak Fakira villages in Samba district have shifted to alternate accommodation or relatives homes’, said sarpanch of Bengalad Ram Lal. Residents of these villages said they have been told to spend the night at Chichi Mata temple, far off from the border.
Basharat Ahmed, who lives in along the LoC in the Balakote area of Poonch, said that though people were yet to migrate, there was tension due to news reports. However, there has not been much movement of troops, he added. Even migrant labourers from UP, Bihar and other parts of the country have started receiving calls from family members, asking them to return home. “I got a call from my wife, asking me to return home as she has heard that war can break out between India and Pakistan,’’ said Ram Saran of Bihar.Rajasthan’s BORDER districts have been on alert for three days now but the government has not called for the evacuation of villages, Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria said. Following the Army’s strike, Kataria met Thursday evening with police and civil administration officials. “We asked the Army if there was anything that was needed from us, but we were told there is no cause for worry and will be informed if something is required of us,” Kataria said, congratulating the Army for a “successful surgical strike”. He said the alert was sounded three days ago.
Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje “saluted” the Army for the strike, terming it a moonh-tod jawab to Pakistan.Mir Ehsan, Srinagar
In the build-up to India’s strikes on the Line of Control, the Army had been interacting frequently with villagers near the LoC and, on Wednesday afternoon, had sought to assess the preparedness of the only large civilian hospital close to the LoC — the sub-district hospital in Uri.
Two officials of 12 Infantry Brigade stationed in Uri visited the hospital. “They asked about the operation theatre and other facilities and left,” a doctor said.
Since the Uri attack, officials of local units had been meeting village heads and other leaders and asking them to report any suspected movement to the nearest Army unit. “We were asked not to venture out after 6 pm. They said this was a precautionary measure after the attack on the camp,” said a village head in Uri who attended one such meeting in his village near the LoC.
Col Rajesh Kalia, defence spokesman in Srinagar, said the Army interacts regularly with village leaders but denied there is no restriction in the movement of civilians. “Some coordination is required for the safety of the local population so that no untoward incident takes place during patrols,” he said.
In Gwalata, Churunda and Silikote situated on or near the LoC, villagers said there has been increase in the movement of soldiers close to the LoC.
“We have border passes, but if any relative who lives in other village intends to visit us, we have to register his name in the camp,’’ said a villager in Silikote.
The Army claimed to have arrested two guides Sunday, reportedly residents of PoK, from border areas in Uri. They have been now handed over to the NIA that is investigating the terrorist attack.
Troopers of 19 Infantry Division based in Baramulla and 28 Infantry Division based in Kupwara were reportedly engaged in operations launched from Nowgam and Tangdhar sectors.
The 19 Infantry Division has been under pressure since the terrorist attack on the 12 Infantry Brigade headquarters in Uri.
Rajnath briefs border state CMs, Oppn leaders
Express News Service, New Delhi
Soon after the announcement by the DGMO of surgical strikes carried out by the Army on terrorist launching pads across the Line of Control, Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to chief ministers of border states, former Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and H D Deve Gowda, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, and informed them about the operation.
In a series of tweets later in the day, Rajnath said, “Congratulations to the Indian Army on successful counter terrorism operations against terror groups and their launching pads. We are proud of our armed forces. They have once again exhibited exemplary courage and valour by destroying the anti India designs. I also congratulate Prime Minister Shri @Narendramodi on taking a bold decision and showing true grit and mettle in crucial times.”
The morning after the strike: Firing along LoC
Arun Sharma, Jammu
LESS THAN 12 hours after India carried out “surgical strikes”, an encounter broke out between security forces and some militants at Sagra, in Mendhar sector, along the Line of Control (LoC) on Thursday afternoon.
Sources said the militants were suspected to have sneaked in under cover of firing and mortar shelling from across the border, in Balnoi area of Mendhar from 4:30 am to 6 am on Thursday.
Sagra is located near Balnoi, which is on this side of the LoC. It also adjoins Bhimber Gali (BG) sector, from where Indian troops are believed to have carried out the “surgical strikes”.
At about 2 pm on Thursday, security forces at a police naka near the Sagra forest reportedly came under fire. Additional security forces were rushed to the area and joined the operation against the militants, who are suspected to be hiding in the dense forest. While the firing has stopped, the forest area has been cordoned off.
A special police official, identified as Talib Hussain, has been injured in the operation. Sources said he was injured when he slipped from a height.
Meanwhile, nearly a dozen policemen were injured when their vehicle met with an accident, while they were on their way from Poonch to Sagra.
Pakistani troops also violated ceasefire in Kalal area of Nowshera on Thursday morning and at Sawjian on Wednesday night.
Wagah to school, what went on, what didn’t
The BSF held its retreat ceremony at Wagah as usual on Thursday but turned away busloads of visitors who were arriving to watch it. The BSF also asked its personnel to step back from the zero line and take position behind the fence on the India-Pakistan border on Thursday afternoon. Cross-border trade at the international Check Post at Attari, however, remained normal throughout the day.
Samjhauta Express: Unlike on other days, BSF personnel did not cross the border gate while sending off the Samjhauta Express into Pakistan. The train left as usual with 150 passengers. Earlier, it brought 144 passengers from Pakistan.
Kabaddi: The Punjab government is yet to take a call whether to invite Pakistan’s men and women teams for the World Kabaddi Cup and Kabaddi League in October and November. Deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal said. “We will look into it.”
Cultural exchange: A cultural exchange programme in Ajmer with a delegation from Pakistan was called off Thursday following protests by right-wing organisations. The programme involving three dozen students and teachers from Pakistan was scheduled at Mayo College from October 2 to 5.
School programme: In a school in Chandigarh, quite oblivious of the operation, a delegation of Pakistani girls and children of the school sang the Sholay song Yeh Dosti, Hum Nahin Chorengey.